Sept. 9, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
How has the team responded in the offseason given the way you guys ended last season?
"I will tell you, I've been very, very encouraged and impressed with how hard they've been working and according to what (assistant AD for strength and conditioning) Heather Mason and her staff have been able to share with me, they are very, very invested. There's no doubt about that. (Heather) has done an incredible job in this program. From the feedback she has given me, and of course I've been able to watch them do some of their workouts, they're in a different place.
"I think losing last year obviously hurt them as much as it probably has any team in a long time. We'd obviously never been put out in the first round. Also I think the Amber (Gray) situation brought this team a lot closer together. As bad as that situation was, at the same time, I think the team rallied because of it. It just brought us all a lot closer. Our staff is closer to our team, they're closer to us and they're more invested."
How is Amber doing?
"She was in two weeks ago on a Saturday. She looks great. The doctors obviously are optimistic and her vision was good. She's able to open her eyes now. Vision's good, and she's still doing her rehab. She's looking for kind of a game plan. Talked about maybe doing some online things just before she comes back next semester. But she will definitely be back next semester."
What have you and your staff been emphasizing to the team in individual workouts going on so far?
"I would say about 80 percent of it has been defense. I think that's just -- especially with three newcomers -- making sure they understand the terminology and how we defend backscreens, downscreens, ballscreens, all action defensively. And getting them to be very comfortable with how we defend certain concepts. I think they've really, really been invested in trying to get it right.
"We'll obviously do shooting at the beginning and the end. But once we get into having the whole team, then we'll be ready to introduce all of our offensive things."
It seems like part of the offseason process is watching new leaders develop. How is that dynamic working without any seniors and Angie Bjorklund being sort of the elder stateswoman?
"Angie and Syd (Sydney Smallbone) have both stepped up their leadership. I'm really pleased with Syd being so much more vocal. Bree (Briana Bass), she's probably been the one who has changed the most as far as her communication and just her intensity. She really looks like she's ready to step in and be a factor for us at the point position."
You mentioned the newcomers -- Taber Spani, Kamiko Williams and Faith Dupree -- earlier. How have they done so far in the offseason program?
"Taber is very, very mature. She doesn't look like a freshman. She's got probably the deepest range of anyone on our team. I think she can play multiple positions, so from that standpoint I've been really pleased with what I've seen from her.
"Kamiko has never been in a structured environment like she's in right now and has never had to work as hard as she's having to work. She's getting better. At first, I was like this may take until after Christmas for her. But she's responded to the team, she's responded to the coaches, she's responded to Heather and her staff. She's a player. And the fact that she's starting to, I think, feel better about herself and her conditioning that she should help us.
"And the same goes for Faith Dupree. She's coming into a situation where she's going to have to be in the best shape ever. There's no doubt her offensive skills are very good. She's working hard on the defense as well."
Faith and Glory Johnson played together in high school. Does that help having players who have already played together for a long time, or are things so different that it's not as big a help as people might think?
"I think certainly there's going to be times when they're going to be on the floor together, and they've got awareness when they're playing together. I've watched them play a lot. To have them both now, and Glory be able to play in the high-low game and Faith, she shoots the 3-ball deep. I could see those two playing together and being a good combo."